GPS Tracking

What is GPS?

How to use GPS:
GPS Navigation

Overview of GPS devices from handhelds to watches:
GPS Comparison

GPS Products
Earthmate GPS
Garmin GPS
Magellan GPS
Navman GPS
Delorme Mapping
Garmin MapSource
Garmin Charting
Magellan MapSend

Using GPS to locate something or someone:
GPS Tracking

Increase the usefulness of your device with:
GPS Accessories
GPS Maps
GPS Software

Most people use a GPS receiver to find their location, but a GPS tracking system is used to find something or someone else's location. A GPS vehicle tracking systems is rapidly becoming a necessity for companies which want to manage their fleet efficiently. And some parents see GPS tracking as an electronic watchdog. But vehicles and people aren't the only tracking subjects. Wildlife managers use GPS tracking devices to follow migration patterns and oil companies use them to monitor major oil spills.

GPS Tracking System Basics
Although the tracking equipment used and the thing being tracked vary widely, the components of a GPS tracking system are the same. Whether the tracking device is monitoring a car or a child, the tracking system has four parts:

  1. GPS satellites which provide location information to GPS receivers.
  2. GPS equipment attached to the subject tracked. It calculates and sends its location to the base station.
  3. A wireless connection from the monitored subject to the base station.
  4. A system at the base station to monitor the subject's location.

Besides tracking the position of the GPS unit, other important information may also be monitored. A GPS vehicle tracking system often includes sensors to check the engine and other mechanical systems to ensure proper operation. Wildlife tracking might include measuring changes in the animals' metabolism. And scientists following large icebergs could get temperature readings and ice melt rates along with the icebergs' location.

The wireless connection can be one of several types, depending on the tracking requirements. For use in the city, a common radio wave transmitter/receiver hookup is a simple low-cost choice. The equipment is relatively cheap and the airspace used is free. But the downside is a lack of bandwidth which limits the amount of tracking possible. Also, the tracking data requires an analog to digital conversion which increases the expense.

Another popular wireless choice for a GPS tracking system is a cellular link. The availability of cellular communication both in and out of cities is increasing every year to make this a reliable option. But unlike radio, the connection isn't free, so the added cost must be taken into account.

Satellites are used not only for tracking information, but are also used to transmit the data to a monitoring station. And for large coverage areas, nothing tops satellite communication. If the GPS tracking system needs to range cross country, a satellite link is an effective solution. However, satellite communication is still relatively costly, so the system must be efficient when transmitting data.

Usually, to create a GPS tracking system, you buy GPS tracking devices and pay a monthly fee to a data processing service. The service normally puts the information on the Internet in graphical form, making it accessable in real time and whenever you choose.

Cell Phone GPS Tracking
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all cell phones have GPS capability as an aid for emergency situations. And because of this, there are a number of companies who use GPS enabled cell phones as part of their tracking system. Partnering with national wireless companies, these systems can perform a dual function. Not only is the cell phone's location remotely tracked, but visual or voice navigation directions can be given to the cell phone's user. A properly equipped cell phone, or sometimes a PDA with a cellular modem, and a monthly service fee make for a simple GPS tracking system.

GPS Child Locator
As helpful as tracking freight or delivery drivers might be, nothing is as important as parents knowing where their children are. Wherify Wireless produces the most popular of these locators. The GPS tracking device they make is small enough to be worn like a wristwatch. The unit connects through a cellular link to the Internet. Parents are then able to see their child's location online and be alerted if the child moves outside a predetermined area. This GPS tracker is also capable of contacting 911 if an attempt is made to remove the device.

For older children or groups who want to stay in contact, there's another possibility. The Garmin company makes the Rino Radio which is a GPS tracking system combined with a handheld radio. This radio automatically sends and receives GPS data to as many as 50 other users at a time. So along with talking to others over the radio, you can see each other's position with the unit's built-in display.